Behind the Parks: Meet Heather at Blendon Woods

Park Manager, Blendon Woods and Rocky Fork Metro Parks

Blendon Woods Park Manager Heather Williamson at Thoreau Lake.

Adena, Ohio

What I do at Metro Parks and what I love about it
As Park Manager, I oversee all operations at Blendon Woods (653 acres) and Rocky Fork (1,003 acres) Metro Parks, as well as the Shaffer Property, which we call Blendon Ravines (151 acres). I love working with guests and team members, and getting everyone excited about what’s going on in the parks.

I’ve been at Metro Parks for 20 years, starting as a Park Technician at Blacklick Woods Golf Course. Of all the things I do, I still love doing maintenance. I have a fantastic team, but love to share the load and use the chainsaw for downed trees. Getting on the mower is almost as good as a ‘mental health day’ for me.

I also serve on the Safety Committee. We meet monthly and share ideas and proposals with other park managers, like the industry-standard fluorescent yellow shirt for maintenance team member safety and visibility.

My favorite Metro Parks activity
Getting to go off-trail with my fiancé and our three kids is my favorite activity, especially to the Giants at Highbanks Metro Park.

My favorite Metro Parks story that includes a positive guest interaction
Working with guests on the commemorative bench and tree programs through Friends of Metro Parks is such an honor. Guests are so appreciative of your efforts, and they share their life stories, on both good and bad days.

One particular story that sticks out is about a regular guest I met at Highbanks Metro Park where he would take his son’s dog for a walk every week. One day, a message came to the park office that we had a ‘man fallen on one of the trails who had been walking a dog.’ I had a sense that this was the same guest, and it was, so I called his son and let him know his father had been taken to the hospital due to a heart attack. The great news is that he recovered and was eventually back in the park, walking his son’s dog again. Later on he brought his wife with him specifically to meet me and express thanks for my help. That meant so much to me.

Something to share about guest service and creating a positive experience
I think it’s important that we get to know our regular guests, but we should also make the effort to meet new ones and share our passions for the park with them. It can help to turn these new guests into regulars, and it often prompts them to share their passions for the park and nature with you.

If I could go anywhere in the world and time and money were not a concern…
I’d like to go out West and visit Yellowstone and the other National Parks, go to Ireland for a grand tour, and end with a trip to Bora Bora in French Polynesia where I’d spend my time lazing on the white sandy beaches and smelling the ocean.

Life news to share
We had a couple of family triumphs recently. My daughter Abby and her hog came in second place in the Knox County Fair in the junior swine showmanship, and my son Travis became Grand Champion in the Hartford County Fair junior single fryer breed and raised market rabbit championship.

Fun facts about me and my family

Heather’s dog, Shield.

• Meet Shield! We just adopted a puppy from the Franklin County Animal Shelter on Monday. He’s 8 weeks old and 9 lbs.
• As a family we love to go to camping in Ohio and out of state. For spring break we camped at Virginia Beach and enjoyed trips to Jamestown, Yorktown and Williamsburg.
• I’ve had a long involvement with 4-H for youth development, and am former President of the 4-H Club in Harrison County. I’m also a judge for 4-H resource projects in Knox County, and have encouraged my kids to join 4-H too. There is so much that young people can do in the program, and it teaches great leadership skills.
• I’m a canner and I can’t get enough of it We have a large garden, so I can everything from cucumbers, banana peppers, tomatoes, green beans, deer meat and pork sausages. I canned zucchini this year, cut into pineapple sized chunks and added various flavors to make it taste like pineapple. Before taking a break for winter, I’ll be canning apples and peaches.

My favorite food and dessert
I love tacos of all kinds, but fish tacos are probably my favorite. My favorite dessert is the strawberry delight cake from the Golden Delight Bakery. It’s a plain vanilla cake with strawberries both in and on the cake, with light icing on top.

If I had just 60 seconds to share why I love working at Metro Parks, I’d say
I get to do what I always wanted to do – work outside! And, I get to share it with a great group of people, both my Metro Parks team members and our Metro Parks guests. What could be better?

Heather Williamson was talking to Communications Coordinator, Virginia Gordon